Tape Wyrm XLVII: Fallen Empire Tape Wyrm XLVII: Fallen Empire

I have to do this. there is no way I can keep refreshing Fallen Empire’s page, stealing their material and recommending it to others without paying some due respect. Along with Dark Descent, Nuclear War Now, and Hells Headbanger, Fallen Empire has always a reliable distributor for soul scraping black metal. I have known Mike for sometime from somewhere far on the internet. I used to follow his updates regarding releases at his new store. Most of his posts were in long text form with bands I have never heard. I started to take interest and note when all of the releases were turning out to be near amazing and interesting. For as many jokes about underground black metal that are made there are also that many (and more) amazing bands which make music that continues to challenge aesthetics and traditions. It is music which is harrowing and illuminating with things that could shake a person to their core. It is also, most of the time, fucking awesome and relativity cheap. Look no further than for you very own thrift shop of obliterating chaos.

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a0175311139_10Xothist – Xothist (2013)

We might as well start here. For the love of Christ there is no easy and accessible entrance into Fallen Empire releases so let us being with some ambiance. Xothist’s 2013 self titled release begins with a particularly long ambient introduction. By long, I mean around 6 minutes. Do not be fooled however because after that mark the flood gates open and out pours an exciting mixture of vile defiance. From what I gather this is the first side to a 2011 demo which was original pressed at 46 copies. Though the production is rough and the edition numbers are low, Xothist does a spectacular job at presenting grating black metal with an accessible atmosphere. I use the term accessible very loosely. In fact, this is a perfect place to start.

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a1767780087_10Lustre – Night Spirit (2013)

Once again a re-release of material which was made in limited copies. Where else are you going to hear things from black metal/ambient project Lustre? Lustre appears to be entrenched in the Swedish black metal scene providing drums at one point for the venerable Hypothermia and Life Neglected. Continuing his tour of negativity and existential rejection, Lustre’s Night Spirit drapes itself over 20 minutes on each side with dismal horror segmented only by synth keyboard. If one thinks the keyboards maybe too much, just wait until the vocals hit. Lustres’ vocals are perhaps one of the most interesting displays of distant shrieks in temporal memory. This is what death sounds like. This is what the Nazgûl would sound like if given the opportunity to start a band. This music makes flowers wilt in agony.

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a3176992113_10Wylve – Wylve (2012)

After the previous two entries, Wylve feels refreshing. Refreshing as the vocals are not buried in the background rather beating you over the head with a damn garden tool. Wylve comes from Portland and shares a roster with Blut Der Nacht and The Rain in Endless Falls. Welve exists in the same universe as other northwest black metal but makes itself known by the wonderful arrangement of near post rock guitar tones. There is of course madness and agony strewn about like the aftermath of the flood but overhead hands consonance almost serenity to contrast. When things hit their peak, comparisons could be made to the likes of Marduk and Absu with a mid-fi level of clarity.

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a0187521403_10Dommedagssalme – To That Which Lies Dormant (2012)

I texted one of my friends mid way through To That Which Lies Dormant that I glimpsed the end of music and rational thinking. There is of course more extreme music than Britain’s Dommedagssalme. There are things which are faster, heavier, darker and I do not know why I saw the end of the world at the bottom of his 2012 demo (originally recorded in 2005.) Whether or not it was the subterranean shrieks, the repeating melodies of the guitar or the production which felt like a decent into perdition via empty elevator shaft. There just is no reason to think this way yet I have to say this release, while near amazing in its production, scared the everlasting shit out of me all afternoon. Still amazing but frighting none the less.

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a3202034090_10SVN OKKLT compilation (2012)

One of the easiest ways I personally became acquainted with Fallen Empire was through their SVN OKKLT tape compilation. SVN OKKLT is another label/blog semi related to Fallen Empire if not just a working relationship. There is some overlap with artists and Fallen Empire distributes some of Svn Okklt’s material. The two tape compilation from SVN OKKLT not only gave listeners the opportunity to celebrate in underground black metal but it introduced a new audience to the likes of Death Fortress, Axis of Light, Witch in Her Tomb and Midwest bedroom prodigy Jute Gyte. It also has a kick ass cover and comes on two cassettes. I also may want a t-shirt from these guys if they have one.Please do not send Dommedagssalme to deliver it.

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Tape Wyrm: When did Fallen Empire come to be, or maybe more interestingly, how did it come to be?

Mike: Fallen Empire came into existence on June 16, 2011. That was the first day the shop opened to the public. I was tired of paying for international shipping on things that I couldn’t get here in the USA, so when the Dragged Into Sunlight LP came out and nobody else was stocking it here, I got to talking with Mordgrimm and eventually decided to try giving my own store a shot. It seemed to me like there was room for a store that focused almost exclusively on imports.

TW: How do you find your artists? Are cassettes your primary focus at this moment?

M: Cassettes aren’t necessarily the main focus. I’m pretty sure I have more vinyl in stock than cassettes these days. I find artists by either contacting them myself, hearing them from message boards and other notification mediums, or sometimes they contact me. Its very rare that a band I’ve never heard of contacts me and its actually something worthwhile. Tardigrada is still the best band that ever contacted me out of the blue, and that was over a year and a half ago.

TW: So the majority of your acts are not from Portland?

M: No, most bands I’ve released are not from Portland. Only Blut der Nacht, The Rain in Endless Fall and Wylve were from Portland, but those releases all happened before I moved here. Currently there are no active bands from Portland who are on Fallen Empire.

TW: Were cassettes the preferred medium for your label’s music at one time? What is it about it with this type of music that draws so much attention?

M: At a point in time they were, but now the focus is almost exclusively on vinyl. When the label was smaller I had less money and less people knew about the label, so cassettes were a good way to get stuff out there for unknown bands without bankrupting the label. Its also a very fitting format for black metal. The aesthetics, tradition and sound that can be achieved with cassettes is perfect for black metal. The goal for me is to continue working with these bands and eventually press their stuff on vinyl. I have already pressed up a 7″ vinyl for Blut der Nacht after first releasing their demo on cassette. In the future their are vinyl releases planned for Axis of Light, Death Fortress, Tardigrada, and The Rain In Endless Fall (now known as Lluvia), all of whom I originally put out material on cassette.

TW: Many of your releases are free to stream and download on various sites. Do you find it important to allow people access to free or lower price music. How does the very real mechanics of running a label weigh into that?

M: I put up all of my releases at least as a free stream on our Bandcamp, and a ‘pay what you want’ download. 92% of people who download off the Bandcamp don’t pay anything, which is fine by me. I have no problem giving away music in digital form for free, but the option for people to donate some small amount for a download is there should they want to. I don’t think that putting music up for free negatively impacts sales of the physical product, assuming of course that the music is worthwhile to begin with. People who aren’t going to buy records aren’t going to buy records no matter what. Given how much music is out there these days, people need to hear something first before they decide to buy a record, especially if its not a band that they know about already. I believe in everything I put out, so I think spreading the music as easily as possible is actually best for both the bands and the label.

TW: Last year you out a compilation of tracks from Kuxan Suum who is part of the southern California label Crepúsculo Negro also known as the Black Twilight circle. Do you have any plans for future releases by other BTC artists?

M: I do not have any plans for future releases from other BTC artists. I believe they are working with The AJNA Offensive for some upcoming releases.

TW: Many of your artists are solo projects. Are there many times when live shows are possible for your roster?

M: No, almost none of the bands I release perform live. Lluvia is the only band I’m currently dealing with that has played live recently.

TW: Which release has been most exciting this year (your label or other)?

M: I honestly haven’t been listening to much new music outside of things I have planned for the label, so I can’t say. The next 6 months should prove to be very exciting as far as new releases on Fallen Empire are concerned, I have a lot of great LPs planned.

TW: What future release should we all be most excited about?

M: The long awaited Xothist – S/T LP will be coming in July and I know people are at a fever pitch for that to finally be completed, myself included. Beyond that there are many things that I’m not ready to officially announce yet.

TW: You are also involved in Svn Okklt which has promoted artists such as Torture Chain, Witch in her Tomb, and other Black Twilight releases. How does that fit into Fallen Empire? Are they related or different entities?

M: Svn Okklt is mainly run by another guy who also happens to help me with Fallen Empire. He is responsible for curating the aesthetics and mission associated with Svn Okklt. I have simply provided some cassette rips as well as some other contributions over time. Recently Svn Okklt have begun to become a releasing label of its own, so there will probably be a number of cassette releases under that label name in the future.

TW: What have you been listening to lately that is different than that your label specializes in?

M: I listen to a lot of stuff that sounds like Kryptic Minds. This sort of sound moves me on a level that no other genre outside of black metal is able to, and in a live setting with a properly engineered sound system it creates an experience unlike any other.



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